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Mindful : April 2014
April 2014 mindful 29 thus increasing the Bay Area creativity and unconvention- ality supply while raising Fargo’s conventionality score. The temperamental and uninhibited Northeast has lost many residents over the decades, and it’s not all about escaping northern winters. Typically, people high in con- scientiousness a nd openness (i.e., seeking new experi- ences) pick up stakes, says Rentfrow. This constellation of traits is the antithesis of the temperamental and unin- hibited type that dominates in the Northeast. As a result, the region becomes more temperamental, uninhibited, and neurotic. Even if your childhood personality doesn’t match the predomina nt traits of those around you, just wait. Person- ality likely has some genetic components, but environment can override DNA. “The personality traits that predominate in a region can alter people’s natural dispositions,” says Rentfrow. The high neuroticism at the core of the temperamen- tal-a nd-uninhibited profile might “spread anxiety and irritability across the region” in a process called social con- tagion. We may like to think of ourselves as consciously choosing to be conscientious, or ag reeable, or open to new experiences, but we are also personality chameleons, pick- ing up the personality color- ing of those we live among. That could dash any hopes that the blue-red divide will lessen soon. It’s typically ascribed to differences in education, religion, age, racial diversity, a nd wealth. But geography of persona lity resea rch suggests otherwise. People in politically blue areas tend to be more open to new ideas and socially distant, whereas those in politically red regions are traditional and friendly. If the scientists are right, these regional personality differ- ences will only continue to grow, and so will the political differences they bring. The work also carries a sobering economic implica- tion. Certain regions are economically vibra nt, Rentfrow and others argue, because of the psychological characteristics of their resi- dents, in particular openness to new ideas and experiences. In the relaxed-and-creative belt, people a re wealthier, have more formal education, and are more innovative. The friendly-a nd-conventiona l region—middle America—is less affluent than others, has fewer highly educated res- idents, and is relatively less innovative. The latter can try all sorts of innovation-boost- ing ideas, such as high-tech incubators at universities and tax breaks to attract entrepreneurs, but short of a personality transplant the region may never produce its own Silicon Valley. It goes without saying—but it must be said—that these generalizations are only that: generalizations. You can find hordes of unconventional Southerners, temperamental Colorada ns, hyper-cheery New Jerseyia ns, a nd others who play against type. But the growing evidence that personality types cluster geographically, globally as well as in the United States, raises intriguing questions about how we come by our personality. ● “Personality traits that predominate in a region can alter people’s natural dispositions” Psychologist Jason Rentfrow